We kick off the 1990s with a band I would naturally associate much more closely with the new wave revolution of the 1980s, Depeche Mode. In early 1990, they released “Violator”, named in jest as a goof on the British metal acts of the ‘80s, and although the title may have been a bit flippant, the music produced and performed on this record represents the career peak for this powerful and highly talented British band. “Violator” is rated #167 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
There are several recognizable hits on this record, and for the most part, they stand out as my favorite tracks, but the rest of the record is consistently strong as well. Martin Gore does all of the songwriting on this album, and the keyboard grooves open “World in My Eyes”, soon followed by the quickly identifiable vocals of Dave Gahan. An entirely different sound than Janet Jackson’s music yesterday, but this album also resonated through the dance clubs, particularly those with an alternative feel to them. “Sweetest Perfection” is a bit unbalanced and disturbing in its delivery, yet very much in line with the sound of Depeche Mode.
The first single, and perhaps most enduring song from the album, is “Personal Jesus”. With an unforgettable riff and dark undercurrent, this song is a classic, and one I have loved since its release. “Halo” was not a hit single, but it is a catchy tune and one of my favorite new discoveries on this record.
The second single released was “Enjoy the Silence”, another act-defining song for Depeche Mode. You begin to realize how good and comprehensive this record is as the hits continue to follow with “Policy of Truth”. Another big hit with a quirky and funky riff, with some really strong harmonies leading into the chorus, this song leaves you with the consistent blend of happy and sad you come to expect from a great Depeche Mode song. “Blue Dress” and “Clean” successfully close out this outstanding record, and it is a consistently great performance with no gaps. My appreciation for Depeche Mode has only grown with time and listening to “Violator” today was the perfect reinforcement of this keen enjoyment.